Raheem Sterling racially abused during England Euro 2020 qualifier

11 September 2019, 23:33

Raheem Sterling was targeted during the game at Wembley Stadium on Saturday
Raheem Sterling was targeted during the game at Wembley Stadium on Saturday. Picture: PA

By Megan White

Raheem Sterling allegedly had racist abuse hurled at him by a Bulgaria fan during England's Euro 2020 qualifier on Saturday.

The 24-year-old is said to have been targeted by discriminatory language in the first half of the game at Wembley Stadium.

The incident has prompted fears from manager Gareth Southgate that players could be subjected to more abuse during next month's return fixture in Sofia.

A steward is said to have heard the individual in the Bulgaria section of the ground and they were ejected from Wembley and handed to the police.

The Metropolitan Police confirmed that the male involved was arrested and taken to a north London police station on suspicion of an aggravated public order offence.

Following enquiries, he was released with no further action.

The England star was allegedly abused during the first half
The England star was allegedly abused during the first half. Picture: PA

A spokesperson from the Football Association said: "We can confirm that an individual, who was seated in the away section of the stadium, was ejected and subsequently arrested for discriminatory abuse during the England v Bulgaria match.

"Wembley Stadium operates a zero tolerance policy on anti-social and discriminatory behaviour and anyone found guilty will be ejected and reported to the police."

It is understood that nothing was said to Sterling about the incident during the game, with the FA's security team speaking to the forward after the 4-0 win to make him aware of the process.

UEFA was informed of the incident through its matchday delegate.

Sterling and his England team-mates were also subjected to racist abuse during March's Euro 2020 qualifier in Montenegro.

The Football Association of Montenegro were ordered to play their next match behind closed doors and manager Southgate fears similar abuse in Bulgaria.

Looking ahead to the next game, the England boss said: "Yes, it is a concern, it's something that we've already planned.

"We've already planned what our schedule looks like and we're going to discuss it with the players before we go, because we're aware that there is history there and we want to make sure that we're all prepared for what might happen and how we want to respond.

"So, we are going to address that when we all get back together. We didn't think it was right to do it this month because it's too far away from the games, but we have to hope... we're not confident that we'll go there and nothing will happen."

Next month's qualifier will be England's first trip to Bulgaria since September 2011, when a 3-0 win was overshadowed by racist abuse in Sofia.

Ashley Young was subjected to monkey chants during that game, but the Bulgarian Football Union (BFS) only received a 40,000 euros (£34,000) fine by UEFA for "discriminatory" chanting and for the lighting and throwing of fireworks.

The Vasil Levski National Stadium will already be partially closed for England's latest visit due to the racist behaviour of their supporters in the 2-1 loss in the Czech Republic in June.

The BFS is required to block off at least 5,000 seats for the visit of Southgate's men and display a banner with the wording '#EqualGame'.

Bulgaria's return fixture against the Czechs is also due to be played at a partially-closed ground due to racist behaviour in the 3-2 home loss to Kosovo in their other June fixture.